Dustin Schlatter (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)As a collegiate competitor at the University of Minnesota, Schlatter was an NCAA champion as a true freshman and three-time All-American. He finished his collegiate career with a record of 114-10. His .919 career winning percentage ranks fourth in program history behind only Larry Zilverberg (.948), Brock Lesnar (.948), and Cole Konrad (.922).
InterMat caught up with the 25-year old Schlatter and talked to him about his preparation for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, dropping from 74 kilos to 66 kilos, Brent Metcalf, Dylan and Jayson Ness, MMA, what it would mean to make the U.S. Olympic Team with his brother C.P., and much more.
How are you feeling health-wise as you prepare for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials?
Schlatter: I'm feeling good. I'm healthy and ready to compete.
What has your training situation been like?
Schlatter: It's been good. We brought in Kevin LeValley from Bucknell this past year. So he's been my training partner. That's one of the things I lacked since graduating ... having a full-time guy with me. That's made a big difference, having someone my size, my weight, on the same schedule with the same goals. So I have him with me. Then there are a lot of Greco guys that train here in Minneapolis, including my brother, who I live with. It's been a big bonus being able to train with him. I do a lot of lifting, conditioning, and running with him, and even wrestling Greco has helped my freestyle. Then I also wrestle with the college guys. There are a lot of tough guys around my weight. My coach Jared Lawrence is also really tough and a great partner to have. I also wrestle with Luke Becker and Brandon Eggum. We have a good group of guys to push me and work with who are very knowledgeable and kind of unique from one another. So it gives me a lot of different feels.
What went into the decision to drop from 74 kilos to 66 kilos?
Dustin Schlatter battles Destin McCauley at the Olympic Trials Qualifier in Las Vegas (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Schlatter: I'm in between weights naturally. There are big gaps in freestyle weights. The reason I went up in 2009 was because I was too big for 149 when I was redshirting and there was no reason to cut to 145 if I wasn't going to be at 149. So I thought I might as well get big and have fun. I got a little bigger than I thought I would. 74 kilos was pretty good, but the whole time it was a lot of work to stay big enough. The guys in that weight are very big. I had to kind of actively keep my weight up, do a lot more lifting, and focus a lot more on what I was putting in my body. I thought I was small for the weight.
To be honest, getting down to 66 kilos was probably equal in terms of the amount of effort I had to put in to stay up at 74 kilos. People would probably think cutting the weight would be harder, but it's just as much effort to stay up. This past summer I was just focusing on getting healthy. I wasn't focusing on keeping my weight up and doing as much lifting. My weight just kind of came down naturally. I thought 66 kilos would be more of a natural fit. So I kind of let my weight just go naturally and thought I might as well give it a shot at the New York AC tournament. I just felt better at that weight. I felt like I moved better. I was quicker. I felt like it fit my style better. It feels more natural to me.
What's the biggest difference between wrestling Americans and wrestling foreign competitors?
Schlatter: It's definitely a different feel. Foreigners tend to feel things a little better and flow a little better, whereas Americans I think have a tendency to maybe force things and are known for conditioning and wearing people out. Foreigners just kind of wrestle how they feel ... They feel things. They don't force things. They're very dangerous in certain positions. I think Americans have a set offense and they go to it continuously throughout the whole match.
It seems as though your weight class, 66 kilos, is one of the more wide-open weight classes at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. There has been a new World Team representative at the weight class every year since 2008. How do you see the field of competitors at 66 kilos?
Schlatter: Whether there is a proven guy who has been consistently making the team or not, there's always going to be tough competition. I think that's true with 66 kilos, just as much as any other weight. There are a lot of tough guys. It comes down to who shows up on that day and who puts together four, five, six wins, or whatever it takes, and has a good tournament.
Obviously, there is a chance you could face former rival Brent Metcalf at the Trials. Is that a potential match you have thought much about?
Dustin Schlatter and Brent Metcalf faced each other in high school and college, but have yet to meet on the senior level in freestyle (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)Schlatter: I guess a little bit. He's one of the top guys in the weight. But you can't really think about one competitor over another. You're going to have to beat several guys who are former World Team members, NCAA champions, and All-Americans. If you kind of get hung up on one guy or overlook someone, then you're going to get picked off early. It's kind of like the old saying, 'You've got to take it one match at a time.' But I think maybe it holds true more at the Trials than anywhere else because the competition level is so high and you are facing a national champion pretty much every round.
Do you train much with the Minnesota Gopher wrestling team?
Schlatter: Yeah. I like that we're a little more involved than most places. It makes it more enjoyable. It keeps things fresh. There are a lot of great guys and wrestlers on Minnesota's team, which is great for me. It's also nice to be in a role where I'm on the coaching staff and helping. We do get in there to wrestle with the guys probably about half the practices during the week when we're in town. We travel with the team to the bigger events.
You won an NCAA title as a true freshman, which is obviously a very rare accomplishment. Now we are seeing more and true freshmen step in and make an immediate impact. This year alone there were five true freshman All-Americans. Why do you think we are seeing more and more true freshmen make an immediate impact in college wrestling?
Schlatter: I think wrestlers are getting better training at a young age with the acceleration of technique and opportunities to go out to the Olympic Training Center or train with college guys. It just seems like guys are getting more exposure at a young age and are able to hang with the older, more mature, experienced wrestlers because the training opportunities are getting better at the younger ages for these guys.
Dylan Ness reached the NCAA finals at 149 pounds as a redshirt freshman for the Gophers. What has allowed him to be so successful so soon in his college career?
Dylan Ness was an NCAA runner-up at 149 (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Schlatter: I think his biggest strength is that he's very dangerous. He can threaten any wrestler and do some crazy things that not many people are capable of doing. He could be losing one minute and then throw him on his back and pin him the next. He's just a very dangerous and talented wrestler. Not only that, but he has a great mindset. He enjoys himself and has fun out there. He's a gamer. He had some lumps this season. But I, along with coaching staff and everyone who knows him, was pretty confident that he would do well at the NCAAs because he tends to show up for big events. He gets excited. When he's on the big stage he performs.
Having been around both Dylan Ness and his older brother Jayson Ness, do you see many similarities between the two brothers? Or are they quite a bit different?
Schlatter: I think they're pretty different. Obviously, Jayson performs well on the big stage himself, like Dylan. They have quite different personalities and outlooks, I think. I think their styles are kind of different, but obviously they're both very talented and hard workers. But they're very different.
You wrestled in the World Championships in 2009. What did you take from that experience that you think will help the next time you wrestle in a world-level event?
Schlatter: When I was on the World Team I was somewhat inexperienced and young. I didn't really know what to expect. I ended up losing my first-round match to the eventual bronze medalist. I got taken down with 12 seconds left in the third period to lose 1-1, and I remember being somewhat disgusted with myself. But it made me realize that I should have beaten that guy and that I'm right there with the best in the world, and I should have medaled my first time out there. But you have to wrestle all six minutes. Giving up that takedown at the very end of the match made me think that I do need to wrestle all six minutes. Not only that, but it gave me an opportunity to see what the world level is like and get experience that I hadn't had before. It kind of left a sour taste in my mouth and left me wanting more.
You have been successful in all three styles of wrestling throughout your career. Obviously, now you're only competing in freestyle. Do you like freestyle more than the other styles?
Dustin Schlatter battles India's Ramash Kumar at the Worlds (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Schlatter: Yeah, I enjoy freestyle the most. Ever since I was little I liked freestyle. It's always been a favorite of mine.
Obviously, you're still young at 25. Have you put a timetable on how long you want to continue competing?
Schlatter: I guess I'm kind of taking it year by year. We'll see how my body holds up. That's a big thing. I don't have a set plan for how long I'm going to compete. We'll just see how it goes.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) has become a popular career choice for wrestlers, even some former Gophers like Brock Lesnar, Cole Konrad, and Jacob Volkmann have had successful MMA careers. Have you ever seriously considered competing in MMA?
Schlatter: Obviously, it's kind of been in the back of my mind. I think it's something that most wrestlers think about or ponder at some point because there are a lot of opportunities and it's growing, but I try to put all my focus into freestyle and what I'm doing now. I try not to think about doing that or whether it's a possibility down the line. I'm trying to put all my energy towards freestyle and making things happen this month.
What would it mean to you to be on the U.S. Olympic Team with your brother C.P.?
Schlatter: That would be amazing. It would be a dream come true. It's something that we have been dreaming about since we were kids. In 1995 our parents took us on vacation to Atlanta, Georgia for the World Championships. We saw some of the greatest American wrestlers compete and win World titles, wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Kevin Jackson. We were just kids then. But after that we would go down to our basement, wrestle on our mat, and pretend that we were a U.S. wrestler winning the Worlds or Olympics. Ever since then it has been in the back of our minds. For that to come true, it would be amazing and unbelievable.
This story also appears in the April 13 issue of The Guillotine. The Guillotine has been covering amateur wrestling in Minnesota since 1971. Its mission is to report and promote amateur wrestling at all levels -- from youth and high school wrestling to college and international level wrestling. Subscribe to The Guillotine.